Wednesday, January 16, 2019

'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert' examines the report that the FBI investigated Trump's possible covert relationship with Russia

I changed my mind since yesterday, when I wrote "If there continues to be no news about Sears, I'll see if Jimmy Kimmel has good videos on the topic tomorrow."  Yes, Reuters and CNBC reported Sears stores to stay open after Lampert prevails in bankruptcy auction with a $5.2 billion bid, but that won't be official until Friday, when the offer goes before a bankruptcy judge, who could turn it down.*  As for Kimmel, his bits and skits about the shutdown pale in comparison to the latest shiny object, the revelation that "the FBI launched a secret counter-intelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible covert relationship with Russia."  For that, I return to "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," beginning with Stephen asking Is Donald Trump Working For Russia?

Working hard for Russia or hardly working for America?
Evil or stupid — why not both?

Even before the monologue, the show was on the topic, opening the writers imagining The Interpreter's Notes From The Trump-Putin Meeting.

The Late Show obtained (and put back together) the interpreter's notes from the Trump-Putin meeting.
Haha.  That was on Monday.  Last night's show also opened with a segment about Trump's actions involving Russia, Grimace Puts Trump On The Hot Seat.

Donald Trump has finally agreed to sit down and answer questions... from Grimace.
Yes, that's based on a real McDonald's commercial from 2002.

Finally, Stephen described The Art Of The Doing Whatever Putin Asks You To.

President Trump floated an idea so crazy that it just might work... to Putin's advantage.
TrumpNATO/Trumpnado?  I like the pun, even if I don't like the idea.

I'll return to the shutdown after tomorrow, when I plan on posting Seth Meyer's take on this latest development about Trump and Putin's bad bromance.  Stay tuned.

*I promise to report on the judge's ruling when it comes down.  Until then, consider Sears and KMart "not dead yet."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Seth Meyers takes closer looks at the border wall and the shutdown

"I may get around to Seth Meyers tomorrow, but that's only if there is no news about Sears Holdings doesn't announce its liquidation."  That's what I wrote yesterday.  Since I couldn't find anything about the results of the bankruptcy court hearing or the auction at midnight, I'm going to blog about what Seth Meyers had to say about the shutdown over the border wall.*

I begin with the first of three closer look segments on the subject, Trump to Give Primetime Address on the Shutdown: A Closer Look.

Seth takes a closer look at the continuing government shutdown and President Trump announcing a primetime address to repeat his lies.
Meyers said the same thing that Colbert did in response to the question about using emergency powers; stop giving Trump any bad ideas.  I agree.

Two days later, the Seth Meyers got photobombed by Andy Samberg in Trump's Wall Has Changed a Lot: A Closer Look.

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump's primetime address on the government shutdown that he started over his border wall.
This looks a lot like John Oliver's take from three years ago, but I don't mind.  The facts need repeating.

The third and final closer look from last week was Trump Goes to the Border Amid Shutdown: A Closer Look

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump traveling to Texas to make the case for his border wall as the government shutdown drags on.
I see Seth found another way to make fun of Trump's description of how people get into the U.S., first Wile E. Coyote, then Siri after a smartphone has been dropped into a toilet.  Both work for me.

I close with one of Seth's guests, Chris Hayes Says Trump Doesn't Understand the Government Shutdown's Consequences.

Chris Hayes unpacks Trump's obsession with a southern border wall and talks about his personal efforts to not cover some aspects of the 2020 election.
Chris Hayes is right; there isn't a lot about the shutdown that could directly affect Trump outside of air travel and income taxes.  That's too bad, as it needs to be about him for it to matter to Trump.

Seth also covered the shutdown in his monologues, but the jokes, images, and analysis in the closer look segments are almost always superior, so I'll stick with those.

If there continues to be no news about Sears, I'll see if Jimmy Kimmel has good videos on the topic tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

*In the morning, Bloomberg reported Sears Is Said to Extend Talks on Lampert's Plan to Rescue Chain, so still nothing definitive on whether Sears Holdings will be liquidated or not.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A week of the government shutdown from 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'

While my wife and I were watching MSNBC's coverage of the shutdown last week, I repeated my observation that "I could write a post for every day that it has lasted and not run out of bad things to say about it."  She then asked me if I had seen part of a Stephen Colbert monologue about it.  No.  So she showed me it.  It was hilarious.  So I told her, Colbert's next, as I just posted 'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah' on the shutdown.  After Colbert, Seth Meyers then Jimmy Kimmel — at least, that's what I told her.

Still, she inspired me.  Without any further ado, here's a week of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on the shutdown over the border wall.

"The Late Show" began with Yogi Bear In 'Government Shutdown'.

Yogi and Boo-Boo come up with a solution to the trash build-up that has resulted from the government shutdown.
As a former National Park Ranger, this situation pains me personally.

Colbert then tied the return of his show to the shutdown in his monologue Stephen Is Back, The Government Is Not.

Stephen is back from hiatus. The government is not.
The monologue continued in Trump Claims He 'Can Relate' To Unpaid Workers.

Turns out the government does a lot of things. Who knew?
That was just the first night.  Follow over the jump for clips from the next four.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

John Oliver on the border wall, a blast from the past

While covering the shutdown over Trump's border wall, I realized that I never wrote an entry featuring Last Week Tonight with John Oliver's segment on the Border Wall from 2016.  So for today's Sunday entertainment feature, I'm presenting it as a blast from the past.*

Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the U.S-Mexico border. Is his plan feasible?
Nearly three years later, this video has held up surprisingly well.  I found it just as timely, informative, and funny as I did when I first watched it.  I hope my readers do, too.

I plan on posting more coverage of the current shutdown again tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

*Normally, I would have posted something about the Critics' Choice Awards just as I did for "Vice" at the Golden Globe Awards, but I'm not feeling like working that hard today when there is an entertainment angle on a more pressing topic.  When I get fed up with reality, I'll be motivated to write about awards shows again.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah' on the shutdown

I wrote "I could write a post for every day that it has lasted and not run out of bad things to say about it" in The shutdown is disrupting American science.  I'm not alone.  "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" had segments on the shutdown over Trump's border wall all this week and uploaded a video a day on the subject.  So, instead of writing my own material, I'll outsource it to Noah and his writers.

I begin with the first segment, Noah explaining Here’s What Will Happen if Trump Declares a State of Emergency.

Trump threatens to declare a national emergency in order to get his border wall built, which would give him the power to shut down communications facilities, freeze bank accounts and deploy the military domestically.
The next day, 'The Daily Show' had two segments on the wall and the shutdown.  First, Noah mocks Trump’s Oval Office Address: Sniffing and Scaring the S**t Out of People.

After threatening to declare a national emergency over border wall funding, Trump gives a fearmongering address from the Oval Office, followed by an awkward rebuttal from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Next, Noah examines the suffering and damage caused by the shutdown in The Government Shutdown and Trump’s Escalating Wall Gambit.

As Trump’s border wall demands prolong the government shutdown, national parks and federal employees both suffer, and Michael Kosta steps up to make things a little better.
While the shutdown is providing great fodder for talk show hosts, it is messing with Americans' entertainment in other ways, such as the panda cam being turned off.  Americans do not like people messing with their entertainment.

Trump made outlandish and fantastic claims about government workers supporting the shutdown.  Noah and his crew addressed those assertions and more in Shutdown Day 20: Trump Heads to the Border.

President Trump defends holes in a border wall prototype and holes in his financial plans for the Mexico-funded barrier.
No, federal employees being furloughed and working without pay do not support a shutdown for a border wall.

In the final segment uploaded to YouTube this week, "The Daily Show" invites its viewers to a game of Bordersnatch: One Wall, Infinite Possibilities.

Choose your own shutdown narrative.
Trump certainly is playing this game.  He may think it is fun.  I'm not so sure about the rest of us.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The shutdown is disrupting American science

While Sears Holdings, JCPenney, and Macy's are contracting in the face of the Retail Apocalypse, the partial government shutdown over funding for Trump's border wall.  I could write a post for every day that it has lasted and not run out of bad things to say about it.  I'll start by sharing the following segment from PBS NewsHour, With the government shutdown, American scientific progress is disrupted.

Even scientists who don’t work for the government, but receive federal money for research and grants, are among the hundreds of thousands of Americans affected by the government shutdown, now in its 19th day. That means important work and research may be put on hold, or even canceled. William Brangham talks to Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, for details.
This is all awful, but the worst part is that we've seen this all before and knew exactly how it would play out for science.  Seeker/DNews uploaded The Impact of the Gov't Shutdown on Science in 2013 and it works almost as well for the current impasse.

A full government shutdown is in effect here in the US. And it's having a pretty significant impact in the science world. Trace details that impact, and explains its potentially long-lasting effects.
For good measure, I wrote about the effects of the 2013 shutdown on science, which was shorter than the current one, in Shutdown and science from campuses on the campaign trail and Daily Kos.  Almost all of that could be reused now.  So could Effects of the shutdown from local news, in which I wrote "one week of shutdown takes 0.1% off the GPD for a quarter."  That's still true and it could speed up the arrival of the next recession, which I predict will begin in the second half of this year.  Yikes!

ETA: As I was writing the above, DNews/Seeker uploaded a video updating the one I used from six years ago, How a Government Shutdown Screws Up Scientific Research.  Here it is.

Thousands of scientists were sent home on temporary non-paid leave, what does it mean for the research they had to leave behind?
Toll on Science and Research Mounts as Government Shutdown Continues
“A shutdown has these cascading effects on the scientific work of the organization,” said Daniel M. Ashe, a former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “They’re hard to foresee or predict right now, but they’re crippling, really, and they affect the organization not for three or four weeks, but for the rest of the year because of all of this complex orchestration of field work.””

Another Casualty of the Government Shutdown: Hurricane Preparedness
“EMC, the Environmental Modeling Center—they’re the main point of contact for improving the Hurricane Center models, and really the Weather Service model in general. And that organization is basically furloughed; there's very few staff working now. Every fiscal year they set out to improve [some] model, and they have timetables to meet. And now we’re in the third week here. Delays for a day or two—that can easily be absorbed. But the longer this goes on, the more likely it is to have negative consequences down the line.”

Government Shutdown Causes Slowdown In Scientific Research
“It does have a lingering impact because a lot of this work is work that's ongoing at such an incredible pace right now that interrupting that really sets a lot of that work back. And also, just recovering from the lost opportunities for people to get together, it's going to take some months to really be able to rebuild some of those opportunities in new and different ways.”
Almost perfect timing on Seeker's part.  As for the shutdown, the new video shows that it's even worse than I thought.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

JCPenney and Macy's also closing stores in 2019, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

I have more news on how JCPenney and Macy's are faring in the Retail Apocalypse today, as Wochit Business reported yesterday Macy's and JCPenney Are Closing Stores.

Retailers JCPenney and Macy's have started off the new year with store closings. Business Insider reports that the two department-store chains are looking to trim down on expensive real estate to cut costs and boost growth. These closings follow embattled retailer Sears who also announced more than 260 store closings since it filed for bankruptcy in October.These department-store chains have come under pressure as spending increasingly shifts online and foot traffic to stores slows.
Business Insider, the source of the Wochit Business video, had more details.
On Tuesday, JCPenney reported disappointing holiday sales numbers and announced that it would be closing three stores in the spring. More would follow, it said, adding that these would be announced in its upcoming quarterly earnings results in February.

JCPenney isn't alone. Macy's has quietly announced a string of store closings in the upcoming months, including one store in Massachusetts, its last remaining store in Wyoming, and another in Indianapolis.
I may be done with the Sears Holdings bankruptcy for now, but the Retail Apocalypse continues to claim victims.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Sears Holdings still 'not dead yet' as deadline extended for rescue offer

I told my readers to "Stay tuned" as "I'll have more tomorrow on Fast Eddie Lamprey's rescue effort, regardless of how it turns out" at the conclusion of Sears Holdings announces 80 more stores closing while company on verge of liquidation.  I was expecting that CNBC would have the final word in Sears plans to liquidate after after 126 years in business.

Sears Holdings has rejected Chairman Eddie Lampert’s bid to save the 126-year-old company, setting the storied retailer with more than 50,000 employees on a path to liquidation, people familiar with the situation told CNBC on Tuesday. Sears, which also owns Kmart, planned to announce its liquidation plans Tuesday morning, the people said.
That's not yet to be, as Wochit News reported soon after that Millionaire Chairman With Hopes To Save Sears Is Revising Offer.

Sears Holdings Corp agreed on Tuesday to consider a revised takeover bid from a billionaire. Chairman Edward Lampert could temporarily stave off a liquidation, reports The liquidation in question would have ended the 126-year-old U.S. department-store chain. Lampert’s latest attempt to rescue Sears came after his previous $4.4 billion bid fell short. This prompted the retailer to make liquidation preparations ahead of a bankruptcy court hearing in New York.

An attorney for Sears states Lampert is expected to submit a revised offer and a $120 million deposit. Sears will weigh Lampert’s offer against a proposed liquidation during a Jan. 14 bankruptcy auction. Should Lampert’s offer falter again, he will forfeit more than $17 million from his deposit to Sears creditors.
Unless Fast Eddie Lamprey misses making his deposit today, that means there likely won't be any news until Monday, which means I probably won't write any more on this story until Tuesday.  Even then, I am not optimistic his offer will win out over the other bids in the bankruptcy auction or succeed in keeping Sears and KMart open until the end of the year.  I fully expect to write a series of obituary posts for both chains, just as I did for Toys R Us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Sears Holdings announces 80 more stores closing while company on verge of liquidation

I wrote that I was planning on writing about the likely deaths of Sears and KMart today after asking is JCPenney the next Sears?  It's time to follow through by sharing WXYZ's report from December 28th of last year that Sears to close 80 more stores.

Sears has announced that it is closing the store location at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi. The company is set to close 80 more stores across the country.
The end was not as nigh as the WXYZ report made out, as CBS Philly reported that night that Sears Wins Reprieve From Liquidation.

Sears may have been saved from liquidation just hours after announcing the closure of more stores.
The report extended the lifespan of sears by two weeks.  In doing so, it put my prediction that "the Twelve Oaks Mall location in Novi...would be open until the entire chain goes under" in jeopardy.  That would be especially so if the bid is accepted.  However, CNBC places that in doubt, reporting It's lights out for Sears on Tuesday unless Eddie Lampert can sweeten his bid.
Sears and its chairman, Eddie Lampert, have been so far unable to resolve disagreements over his $4.4 billion bid to save Sears and 50,000 jobs by buying it out of bankruptcy through his hedge fund ESL Investments, people familiar with the situation tell CNBC.

Sears continues to inch toward liquidation, even while leaving Lampert room to have a last-minute about-face. Sears advisors this past Friday had told the bankruptcy judge it planned to announce a liquidation on Monday, one of the people said. By Sunday afternoon, Sears had decided it would give ESL until Tuesday morning before coming to and announcing a conclusion.

ESL's advisors worked through the weekend and into Monday. So far, Lampert's bid is insufficient. If he doesn't agree to concessions, the company will liquidate.
I have a feeling that Sears may go into liquidation today.  If so, this really was the last Christmas for Sears, which means I would be right when I wrote "Sears and KMart are not dead yet...but it probably won't be long."  In that case, my prediction that the Twelve Oaks location will be open until the entire chain goes under will turn out to be correct.  In this case, I'd almost rather be wrong.

I'll have more tomorrow on Fast Eddie Lamprey's rescue effort, regardless of how it turns out.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 7, 2019

JCPenney stock falls below $1, prompting the question, 'is JCPenney the next Sears?'

While I've been busy covering the Sears Holdings bankruptcy, another department store chain has been having its own difficulties during the Retail Apocalypse, JCPenney, which I promised to write about in July 2018 and only now am getting around to.  CNN reported late last month that its stock fell below $1.00, always a bad sign.  That news prompted Eric of Retail Archeology to ask Is JCPenney The Next Sears?

A lot of bad news has come out recently about JCPenney. Let's talk about it while check out one of [their] stores during a time when it should be very busy.
Eric isn't the only one to make that comparison.  Forbes did as well, declaring 2019 Will Be The Year JCPenney Flips -- One Way Or Another.
It’s JCPenney’s turn in 2019.

If 2018 was the year Sears finally succumbed to the inevitable, and the year before marked the beginning of the end for Toys "R" Us, then this new year will be all about JCPenney.

Not that the retailer is going out of business, though that could be its ultimate fate. More likely, whatever happens to the beleaguered company over these next 12 months there will still be a JCPenney in the marketplace.

But 2019 will clearly be the year when the attention of creditors, financial institutions and, perhaps most importantly, the company’s vendors will be most focused on what the retailer does to survive. And JCPenney will need to address all of their concerns—one way or another.
This crisis has been a long time coming.  Eric uploaded an earlier video on JCPenney during April 2017.  In it, he wondered how long the chain would last, giving it the title JCPenney 1902 - ????

This episode features video tours of 2 JCPenney locations in the Phoenix, AZ area. JCPenney has begun to face financial difficulties and recently announced they would soon begin closing some stores.
As Eric pointed out in the later video, things have gotten worse since.

While the likely deaths of Sears and KMart have been attracting most of the attention during the Retail Apocalypse, the latest developments in which I plan on writing about tomorrow, the travails of JCPenney are coming to a head.  The conclusion of the Forbes article makes that very point.
Something is going to happen with JCPenney this year—something big. The retailer cannot keep going on as it has, its window is rapidly closing in the best traditions of that cliché.

With a market cap of barely $340 million, there isn’t too much breathing space left as the company has lost nearly 90% of its value. And it continues to dance dangerously around a threshold that was once inconceivable: JCPenney as a penny stock.
Looks like I've found the next big Retail Apocalypse story to follow.  Stay tuned.